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Flu Pandemic Guide: Stock Up on Basics

Government Urges Americans to Stockpile Food, Water, and Medicines in Case of Outbreak
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Opposing View continued...

The plan also calls on people to "talk to their doctor" about obtaining supplies of prescription medications that could be in shortage during a pandemic, a scenario that Osterholm says is "effectively impossible."

Most drug manufacturers keep low inventories of drugs and instead sell them about as quickly as they make them, he says. Also, most private insurance plans don't allow patients to obtain more than a 30-day drug supply for current use.

"You can't go out and buy a 60-day supply and if you did that the inventory would dry up overnight," says Osterholm, who has been encouraging the government and businesses to come up with emergency supply plans for the U.S. economy.

Improving Preparedness

Pearson says the latest call was in direct response to requests for guidance from thousands of individuals and that the guide was part of an overall government effort to boost private and government preparedness.

"It would be incomplete to do one part and not the other," she says.

The guide comes as drug manufacturers continue federally funded early production of a still-experimental H5N1 vaccine. Officials say they plan on eventually producing up to 300 million doses of the vaccine but that such large supplies would take years to produce.

Meantime, the World Health Organization confirmed the deaths of three siblings from bird flu in Turkey. The news made that country the sixth to record human bird flu deaths and the first one outside Southeast Asia.

The disease has caused 145 known infections with about a 50% fatality rate. Scientists say H5N1 has not shown an ability for efficient human-to-human spread, a condition necessary to make the virus a direct pandemic risk.

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